I’ll say this first, I’m not going to be the usual fanboy who forces comics into his progeny’s hands just so I have a friend I can geek out with. I’m not going to force this hand, it won’t be a self-fulfilling prophecy, that’s just not my style.
My house was always full of books, shelves packed and covers on tables, but I never fell into the reading styles of my parents. Mum read Dick Francis and Dad never really had a main author he followed. But my eldest brother had comics and Stephen King and Clive Barker and that is always going to interest a kid (isn’t it?). I picked all of them up from an early age and never looked back. I was indoctrinated, and am still a messenger for the cause.
It seems pretty likely that as my son ages he will be exposed to what I read. This is especially true because I make a weekly trip to the store and I then spend the weekend slowly reading my issues, and writing reviews, and articles, about different titles. It’s a decent chunk of my life and so my son’s going to see it. I certainly won’t be hiding it from him.
So, if my dots all connect so far, he’ll probably want to read some of these funny books at some stage, so what will I have to give him?
I usually prefer comics that are aimed at a more adult audience. Vertigo and Icon are favourite imprints of mine and I’m not sure that there for kids, y'know? But in saying that I was about 8 or 9 when I read my first Stephen King book and from there lord knows the sort of fiction I was exposed to by the time I was a teen. Censorship wasn’t a massive problem for me growing up but I feel I’ll be a little more structured with what my boy reads, at least at first. I think my wife would appreciate that as well.
So this excludes a lot of my comic collection. The little man won’t be cutting his teeth on American Vampire, The Walking Dead, Casanova, Sin City, or any of the Brubaker/Phillips tomes (though when he does start I get the feeling maybe Incognito would be the place to go…). Even books like Ex Machina and Gødland might have to wait. They’re not exactly ground floor works.
The question then stands, what comics will be the first comics to be passed down the familial line? Let’s have a look at three contenders from within my collection.
This is kind of a no-brainer for me. He’s my favourite character, I have hundreds and hundreds of issues worth, and he’s generally reader friendly. There are a few works he might have to wait for, much of Miller’s work with the character comes to mind, but all of the first volume comes to mind as being fine to pass down.
But the second volume…I’m not so sure. It’s certainly not ground floor stuff, you need to have a passing knowledge of the character and it’s pretty adult in parts. I can’t imagine giving my young son much of the Bendis/Maleev run as it’s relatively violent and brutal. Maybe not the greatest stuff for the little comic reader. But the more simpler times, definitely. Maybe he can read the 90’s issues and then jump straight into Shadowland for a bit of a giggle.
I think you could give Jonathan Hickman’s run on FF and they’d enjoy it. Sure, some of it’s pretty cerebral and might confuse a kid but I’m of the Stan Lee school of thought where if a kid needs to go to a dictionary then that’s not the worst thing in the world. If he needs to ask me who Leech is then that will only bring us closer. And then I can direct him to further reading.
I was always a fan, as a kid, of reading a comic and being introduced to a new character who I hadn’t read about before. That character might have a deep history of which I wasn’t aware but that didn’t matter, if I liked that person then I’d chase down more information later. I’d read further comics or I’d ask my brother. Both fun options.
I’ve enjoyed Hickman’s work with the first family of comics and while I don’t think it is perfect it sure would be fun for a kid, and it’s damn pretty. Imagine being a kid and reading that mostly silent issue that was underwater. That would be the absolute business.
I’m not a massive fan of the black and white reprints that Marvel offer, I love me my colour, but be damned if these things aren’t great for getting a whole stack of information to just immerse yourself within. As a kid, I would have been all about reading these volumes that collect dozens of comics in one thick spine.
Because these comics were written a long time ago, generally, means that most of these tales are safe the kids. That’s a plus. I probably won’t get in trouble by passing one of these down, and it’ll keep the kid quiet for some time as these things, especially with the wordiness of older issues, can take ages to read.
I get the feeling, though, that my kid will need to be quite dedicated to comics to get through one of these, so maybe it’s not the first port of call.
There are a stack of comics in my collection that would be effective for my boy but probably not as his first at bat. Titles like any of the modern Avengers, much of the Batman I have, S.H.I.E.L.D., Gotham Central, Proof, even maybe something like Immortal Iron Fist would all be something I’d give later, if he pressed for more. If he’s liking the comics he does get sampled with then I’ll definitely steer him in the direction of more.
I could even see me eventually getting him into books (and I’m talking teenage years…maybe, or at least double digits) like Y: The Last Man, the Parker books by Darwyn Cooke, or even stuff like The Escapist books. I could handle giving those to my boy.
That Which Must Wait
I own every issue of The Boys. My boy won’t be reading those for some time. He just can’t, I wouldn’t respect myself as a parent if I let him read much of the stuff that takes place in those pages.
Yet, I would let my boy read any of my old EC horror, crime, and sci-fi reprints I own. The horror in those comics is present, sure, but it’s not so gleefully visceral. I loved EC as a kid, it got me into comics to a great degree, and I think it’s pretty tame and user friendly.
I also think Sleeper would be a book I’d hold off on giving my boy. I know he’ll enjoy the heck out of it but I inversely know it’ll be my responsibility to make him wait for that stuff. It’s just a bit too gloriously brutal for me to have to discuss with my kid in his first decade.
Most of the titles on my shelves, and stacked away in chests, aren’t things he can’t ever read, they are just treats he’ll have to wait for. They’re mildly adult, in character, story, or theme, and so he’ll have to hang on a little while. Which is a shame for him because it doesn’t leave much else I own that he can enjoy. I’m just not a guy who owns a lot of all ages books.
All Ages Suggestions
I feel like I should buy more all ages books now in preparation…but maybe that’s a tad presumptuous. There are great titles on offer, things like Tiny Titans, Pet Avengers, Thor The Mighty Avenger, but I don’t currently read any of them (sorry to all the Thor: TMA fans out there, my bad). I’m thinking maybe I’ll slowly catch up on them in trade as they become necessary.
It just seems responsible of me to have more stuff around that I won’t have to quickly hide from him. I’m just not making any guarantees that it will actually happen.
It’s an interesting concept to look at my comic reading and try to put these books into the future and my son’s hands. What comics have you given to your children to read? Do any of you pick up titles just so your child will have them later on? What comics being published today do you think are the best for children? Let me know in the comments.